Mary Mattingly's FlockHouse Addresses the Threat of Rising Sea Levels
New York is a crowded city, both in terms of the number of people who live here, and in its footprint: our apartment towers and skyscrapers press against the water line, and, in some cases, are built over the original boundaries of the harbor and its estuaries (Hello, Battery Park City). If the climate crisis causes the oceans to rise in the manner currently predicted, the local real-estate market is in for an even tighter squeze. MoMA recently commissioned five teams of architects to redesign our waterfront for a more sodden future (their plans are on view in Rising Currents through Oct. 11), but Brooklyn-based artist Mary Mattingly is already building for that future today.
Last summer, she constructed a self-sustaining, floating dwelling called the Waterpod that docked at various locations throughout the city from Sheepshead Bay to the far reaches of Queens. This summer, Mattingly has taken her ideas to land, with a project called Flock House – a modular, transportable living space designed to perch on top of existing buildings and migrate from place to place. According to the artist, Flock House was designed both in response to the threat of rising sea levels, and as a way to call attention to the unique and under-utilized world of the city's roofs. Mattingly thinks of it as "a parallel city, largely away from the street level of smog and heavily relied-upon infrastructure." For her, these projects for a potential future allow visitors to grasp environmental change and our interdependence in a very material way, one that might inspire them to consider changes they can make in the present.
A prototype of the Flock House is currently taking shape as part of Smack Mellon Gallery's show Condensations of the Social, which runs June 19 to August 1. For the first two weeks of the show, Mattingly will occupy the living space, followed by a rotating schedule of residents who will continue to develop and improve its functioning. At the end of the show, Flock House will be lifted to the rooftop of the MEX building at the edge of Fort Greene, and be incorporated – in a slightly modified form – into a larger installation that Mattingly calls Air Ship Air City (ASAC). ASAC expands upon the self-contained system of the Waterpod by incorporating hydroponic gardens, chickens for fresh eggs, alternative sources of energy, such as wind and bike power, and rainwater and greywater procesing. Also included: "in case of rising water, a kayak landing."